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Riverdale Recap: Murder House on Elm Street

Riverdale

Fire Walk With Me
Season 3 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating *****

Riverdale

Fire Walk With Me
Season 3 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating *****
Photo: Diyah Pera/The CW

Riverdale has lost a father figure, in more ways than one. Luke Perry — who, of course, played Archie’s dad, Fred Andrews — died this week at just 52, following a stroke.

On Riverdale, Dylan McKay grew from a heartthrob into a heartthrob’s dad — who still happened to be very much a heartthrob himself. Neither a mafia boss nor a serial killer, Fred Andrews was perhaps the show’s only genuinely good parent, adding a much-needed dose of sweetness, emotional stability, and realism to the frequently batshit proceedings. And Perry was, by all accounts, as kind offscreen as he was on it, in character. The rest of Riverdale’s episodes will be dedicated to his memory. He will be sorely missed.

This week, we get to see Alice in fine “I Will Sell This House Today” form. Alice gives a young couple the tour of the Cooper — excuse me, Smith — home, open-house-ready with fresh flowers, a roaring fire, and newly fluffed pillows. But her touches inspired by DVR’ed episodes of Million Dollar Listing are no use. Betty cheerily sabotages her at every turn, offering heartwarming family anecdotes about her notorious serial killer father who used to live right here, in their “Murder House on Elm Street.”

Archie, having agreed to help out around the boxing gym in lieu of paying dues, is sweeping up at night when he discovers a little boy, Ricky, camped out there. Ricky ran away from the Santa Lucia Shelter after a group of older boys branded his arm — with the very same symbol Archie was scarred with at Leopold & Loeb. Could this be the path to redemption for Archie, a recent fugitive himself? A one-teen chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters? He certainly seems to think so, inviting Ricky to sleep in the Andrews’ garage, then setting him up to hang at Pop’s during the day.

At school, a brawl ensues when the Farm’s junior league (our very own Kevin Keller among them), the remaining Gargoyles, the student council slash LGBTQIA alliance slash pretty much just the Pretty Poisons, really, find that they’ve triple-booked a classroom. (The college application process’s overemphasis on extracurriculars is truly dangerous.) Weatherbee takes Jughead and Toni to task, as leaders of their respective gangs — and the principal is in a particularly sour mood after someone robbed the chem lab of some Breaking Bad–adjacent equipment last night.

During the Serpents’ weekly scout meeting, Kurtz cops to the chem-lab “quest” immediately; Jughead’s promise of Gargoyle legal immunity is already looking inadvisable. Tough shit, because as the surly head of the Serpents’ newly annexed gang points out, the Gargoyles outnumber them.

Ricky is nowhere to be found at the Chock’lit Shoppe. Pop reports to Archie that his new friend disappeared after a group of “thugs” appeared outside and harassed him through the window. But Pop did find something Ricky left behind: an elaborate, alarming drawing of the Gargoyle King looming over what appears to be a human sacrifice in progress. Sure, the kid has serious issues, but he also has real talent!

Veronica’s sizable debts to Jughead’s mother and her father have led to the two of them feeling entitled to misbehave however they like at La Bonne Nuit: Hiram demands comped round after comped round for his associates, while Gladys, a woman after my own clumsy heart, simply gets drunk and knocks tables over. Veronica and Reggie decide it’s time to boost their profits by going back to hosting gambling — La Bonne Nuit is now a permanent casino.

Veronica agrees to give a prospective client of Hiram’s the VIP treatment at La Bonne Nuit if her father forgives 5 percent of her debt. She makes the same arrangement with Gladys, once known as the “Joan Jett of Riverdale,” in exchange for stage time at the club.

Gladys saunters onto the Bonne Nuit stage for a very sultry version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” which, despite Gina Gershon’s talents, does indeed feel like your friend’s mom publicly embarrassing you. When Hiram’s guest begins to heckle her, she, naturally, pulls a knife from the stage. Perhaps Veronica’s arrangement isn’t going as smoothly as she’d hoped.

Ronnie meets with Toni and offers the Pretty Poisons full-time employment as La Bonne Nuit’s muscle. Toni — already ticked off at her girlfriend for her role in the classroom scuffle with the Gargoyles — declines to run the proposal by Cheryl before accepting. And so the Pretty Poisons dutifully bar both Mrs. Jones and Mr. Jones at the speakeasy’s door. (Cheryl stays at home, moping minus her red lipstick — the personal grooming mood-ring equivalent of Betty without her ponytail.) They need to start showing Veronica, and her business, some respect. One has to wonder: Is a nightclub run by children really the most exciting place these people have to hang out in?

Kurtz tells Jughead that his cronies have nothing to do with Ricky, but that there are rogue Gargoyles still out there, getting up to God knows what. Jug and Archie search the very creepy former Gargoyle ground zero, where they discover a list of names scrawled on the wall. Most of them (Tall Boy, miscellaneous nuns from the Sisters of Quiet Mercy, etc.) have been crossed out, but two remain: Archie Andrews and Ricky Dee. The boys find Ricky himself hiding out there soon after, terrified that the symbol on their flesh means he and Archie have both been “marked for death.”

Relations with Kurtz continue to deteriorate when he tries to kill Fangs by dangling from his feet and then dropping him from Riverdale High’s second floor. Luckily, Jughead and Sweet Pea manage to break their friend’s fall.

With the help of FP, Jughead develops a plan to reenergize his “rudderless” Serpents. The Sheriff’s Department will deputize the gang to help with investigations, for both money and school credit. I, for one, can’t get enough of this Hardy Boys shit, but it leads Kurtz (although not the other ex-Gargoyles, promisingly) to sever ties with the gang once and for all.

Now that he’s hanging exclusively with his new Farmie friends, Kevin ices out Betty, a “detractor.” Betty spies on an after-school Farm meeting and watches him and the others hold their hands over Bunsen burners at Evelyn’s instruction.

The action heats up, literally, when Betty tails Kev to Fox Forest. There, she finds Evelyn and her beige-clad minions cheering on Kevin as he walks (successfully, I might add) across hot coals. I mean … firewalking probably shouldn’t be supervised by teenagers, but this is a Thing People Do. It’s not like Betty watched them drive a stake through Kevin’s heart.

Nevertheless, Riverdale’s premiere gal reporter is all set to publish an exposé on the “self-harming activities” she witnessed until Evelyn and Kevin threaten to tell everyone about the death of Pseudo Cumberbatch by not-so-natural causes. Alice, of course, already spilled all the family secrets to little L. Farm Hubbard over here.

Their little family happily reunited, Ricky and Archie practice boxing and play video games together. But then Archie gets a call from the gang’s social worker pal, Ms. Weiss, who informs him that not only does Ricky have a history of violent behavior and self-harm, but that his full name is Ricardo de Santos — he’s Joaquin’s younger brother.

Ricky, conveniently, chooses this exact moment to start acting extremely creepy. With a large knife swiped from the Andrews’ kitchen, he tells Archie he needs to finish what Joaquin started. In fact, Ricky gave himself the brand and added his own name to wall. He slashes Archie with the knife just as Fred comes home. Young Ricardo flees again, this time leaving a “Kill the Red Paladin” quest card behind.

Fred tends to Archie’s wound and assures him he is not in fact an idiot; he just has a “big heart.” It’s a hard scene to watch for obvious reasons, and within the universe of Riverdale, it’s devastating to imagine a near future in which Archie will presumably lose his beloved dad.

At Jughead’s encouragement, Archie decides to find a way to finish the G&G game he wishes he wasn’t still playing, once and for all.

Despite Betty’s best efforts, a mysterious overseas buyer has purchased the Cooper-Smith house (please tell me we are about to be introduced to La Ferme and Hilaire-Germain-Edgar) and Alice is packing in earnest.

Betty hangs out in her bedroom, staring at a lit candle. She’s about to place her hand over the flame when her mother pops in to check on her. Instead, Betty takes the candle downstairs and surveys her already mostly boxed-up living room.

Alice comes home from running errands to find the house burning down. Arson, or ar-daughter?

Riverdale Recap: Murder House on Elm Street